When making decisions about whether in-home care is the right choice for your family, it’s important to consider all the new challenges that come with advancing age. For many people, hearing loss is one of these challenges.
Reduced hearing is one of the most common conditions affecting seniors, experienced by almost half of Americans over the age of 75. Called presbycusis, this type of hearing loss happens gradually, so sometimes it can be hard to notice. Other times, it’s very obvious to both the senior and their loved ones that communication is becoming more difficult.
How Does Hearing Loss Happen?
In order to hear properly, the complex anatomy of the ear must work in concert with the nerves that lead to the brain. The sounds we hear bounce off the eardrum, which causes the three small bones in the middle ear to vibrate. The vibrations are transmitted to the fluid within the cochlea, a curled structure in the inner ear. Electrical signals then travel along nerves to the brain.
Age-related hearing loss is most commonly caused by changes in the inner ear. Changes to the middle ear and the nerve pathways between the ear and the brain may also be responsible
Some seniors are more likely to develop difficulty hearing than others:
- Many medical conditions common in older people, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, have hearing loss as a side effect
- Seniors who previously worked in professions with high exposure to loud noises, like construction or music, may have sustained damage to their ears over years of work
- Hearing loss seems to run in families, so there is likely also a genetic factor involved
Living with Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can impact the lives of seniors in many ways:
- It can be hard to understand and follow instructions
- An elderly person with hearing loss may not notice doorbells, phones, and fire alarms
- Difficulty communicating with family and friends can lead to feelings of isolation
Living with reduced hearing can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous. That’s why it’s very important for a caregiver to work with the senior to find a solution that fits their needs. Possible remedies include using a hearing aid, learning to lip read, and making family and friends aware of the condition so that they can adjust the behavior. Those experienced with senior care know that the extra effort it takes to overcome hearing loss is well worth the reward of greater independence and deeper social connections.